Warning issued over frozen berries following virus outbreak

The FSAI has reminded peopel to boil all frozen berries before consumption

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has warned consumers to boil all imported frozen berries for at least one minute before consumption.

The FSAI have reiterated the warning following an outbreak of norovirus in Sweden and Hepatitis A in Australia, both linked to the consumption of frozen berries.

The FSAI says there is no indication that any batches of infected berries have been imported into Ireland.

There were three deaths caused by an outbreak of norovirus in a Swedish nursing home at the start of this month, with another 70 becoming ill. Microbiological analysis found that the cause was frozen berries imported from Serbia. The berries were served – contrary to the national food safety advice in Sweden – uncooked as part of a dessert.

An outbreak of Hepatitis A virus in Australia was linked to frozen berries, with over 30 people becoming ill in February and March of this year.

In 2013 some 1000 people fell ill across Europe due to contaminated berries.

Dr Lisa O’Connor, Chief Specialist in Food Science, “there remains an ongoing risk in the global imported frozen berry supply chain.”

Dr O’Connor said the boiling of berries for one minute before eating “will destroy the virus if it is present.” This precaution is “particularly important when serving these foods to vulnerable people such as nursing home residents,” Dr O’Connor said.

Although there have not been any link between fresh berries and the viruses, Dr O’Connor said that people should wash all fruit, including berries, before eating.

It is also necessary for food businesses to “ensure that the berries they use are sourced from reputable suppliers operating effective food safety management systems and comprehensive traceability systems,” Dr O’Connor added.

The FSAI insist there is no need to stop buying frozen berries, so long as the necessary precautions are taken when preparing the fruit.